Khamenei-Funded Daily Says More Attacks Likely On US Forces In Iraq
The Thursday edition of Khamenei-funded hardline daily Kayhan on March 4 called Wednesday's attacks on the Ain al-Assad military base in Iraq "a humiliation for the United States," but cautiously distanced Iran from the attack by naming "unidentified groups" as the culprits.
This was clearly a shift from the daily's stance last week when it attributed an attack on an Israeli ship and a Houthi attack on a Saudi target as Iran's revenge for a US attack on Iranian proxy groups in Syria.
Meanwhile, the daily said that more attacks are likely to be launched on US forces in Iraq during the coming days.
The difference in Kayhan's reporting of the event with international media was that while nearly all Iraqi, European and US sources had reported that 10 rockets were fired at Ain al-Assad where a civilian contractor died as a result of a heart failure, the Kayhan mentioned 14 rockets and reported the death toll as "at least 3 American military men including a US officer."
The Kayhan claimed that in all, four attacks were launched on US targets in Iraq on Wednesday.
The daily said, "The United States was first humiliated in Iraq by an Iranian missile attack on the base on January 8, 2020 in retaliation for the US forces' killing of IRGGC's Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani." After that, the daily opined, "everyone has been humiliating the US by attacking its biggest military base in Iraq."
On Wednesday, according to the Kayhan, an unidentified group fired fourteen 107mm rockets at the base. The daily quoted an Iraqi news source as Saberin News saying that US forces were not able to intercept any of the rockets. Saberin News said that those wounded in the attack were airlifted to Kuwait and then to Germany for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, Iran-linked TV station Al-Mayadin in Beirut claimed that the rockets were fired from a pickup truck parked in a nearby farm and that the truck was destroyed after the attack.
The Kayhan claimed that three other attacks were also launched on US forces in Iraq on Wednesday. A US logistics convoy was hit 40 kilometers south of Baghdad in Yousefieh. Two other attacks were launched in Samawah and Hollah, adding that the US forces have censored the news of the attacks.
The paper further quoted "experts" as saying that there will be more attacks on US forces in Iraq during the coming days. The daily quoted a "resistance commander" in Iraq as having said that all agreements about not attacking "US occupiers" have been annulled.
No group in Iraq or elsewhere in the region has so far claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attacks as of Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, probably in a bid to distance pro-Iran groups from the attacks, the Kayhan reported that Iran-backed Hashd al-Sha'bi groups have accompanied the Iraqi army on Wednesday in an extensive military operation codenamed "The blood of martyrs" against the Islamic State in various parts of Iraq.
A Reuters report said that tensions between Iran and the United States escalated following the attacks on Wednesday. According to the Pentagon, There were no reports of injuries among U.S. service personnel but an American civilian contractor died after suffering a "cardiac episode" while sheltering from the rockets.
US officials said they were investigating the case. President Biden told reporters on Wednesday: "Thank God no one was killed by the rocket ... We're identifying who’s responsible and we'll make judgments at that point."
However, other US officials told Reuters that the rocket attacks "fit the profile of a strike by Iran-backed militia." Nonetheless, he Pentagon said it was too soon to come to any conclusion.
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "If we assess that further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing," adding that "What we won't do is make a hasty or ill-informed decision that further escalates the decision or plays into the hands of our adversaries."